UK Government announces ‘historic’ new independent regulator for men’s football

The new legislation will aim to "put fans back at the heart of the game".

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 19th March 2024

Historic new legislation set to “reform the governance” of men’s elite football in England has been introduced in Parliament.

Coming at what is said to be at a “critical juncture” for English football, following the attempted breakaway European Super League proposed back in 2021, as well as series of high-profile cases of clubs being financially mismanaged or collapsing entirely, and in a bid to “put fans back at the heart of the game”, the UK Government has this week announced ‘The Football Governance Bill’.

At the heart of the Bill, and what is undoubtedly the biggest talking point of the new legislation, is the establishing of a new ‘Independent Football Regulator’ (IFR) as a standalone body – which will be, like the name suggests, independent of both Government and the football authorities. 

The body will be “equipped with robust powers”, according to the Government.

It will revolve around three core objectives:

  • To improve financial sustainability of clubs
  • Ensure financial resilience across the leagues
  • To safeguard the heritage of English football

New owners and directors will face stronger tests to stop clubs falling into the wrong hands under the new Bill, and will also face the possibility of being removed and struck-off from owning football clubs in the future, if they’re found to be “unsuitable”.

New backstop powers around financial distributions between the Premier League, the English Football League (EFL), and National League also form part of the new Bill, and would be triggered to “ensure a settlement is reached” if the three leagues fail to agree on a new deal on financial distributions.


And, for the first time in football history, clubs from the National League – which is Step One in the football pyramid – all the way to the Premier League will be licensed to compete in men’s elite football competitions in England.

The Government says this will, however, be “proportionate to any problems, size, and circumstances” of the clubs, and will involve a system of provisional and full licences to give everyone “time to transition”.

All clubs will be subject to new baseline requirements under the legislation, the Government says, irrespective of their licence status


The provisional licence will require all clubs to meet some mandatory conditions as standard, including basic requirements on fan engagement, corporate governance, and financial reporting, and then the regulator will apply additional bespoke licence conditions on clubs, as necessary, to ensure they meet necessary standards for a full licence across three key areas – financial resources, non-financial resources, and fan engagement.

The latter is said to be “a central tenet” of the ‘Football Governance Bill’.

As part of the licence, clubs will be required to consult their fans on key off-field decisions – such as club heritage, and the club’s strategic direction.  

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said football clubs are “vital community assets” as the new Bill was introduced in Parliament yesterday (18 March), adding: “For far too long, some fans have been taken for granted, and clubs lost to unscrupulous owners.

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“Today’s Bill will pave the way for the creation of an Independent Football Regulator, and usher in greater protections to help clubs and their fans thrive over the long term.”

Featured Image – Fanga Images (via Unsplash)